Fiddler’s Green Partners, LLC made an offer to buy 11.6 acres of the old Blacksburg Middle School property for $3.1 million last week.
The development company plans to turn the property into an upscale, professional housing area, said Jim Cowan, a principal with Fiddler’s Green and the project’s spokesperson. He also said there is potential for commercial space on the parcels closest to Main Street. But as negotiations for the sale of the property move forward, members of the Blacksburg Town Council have a few considerations to make before redevelopment can begin.
Jeanne Stosser, a managing member of Fiddler’s Green and president of SAS Builders, has had two past conflicts with the town of Blacksburg that resulted in Supreme Court cases. One case dealt with development at First and Main streets, and another involved the Tom’s Creek Basin sewer construction. In both cases, the court sided with the town.
“There’s a trust issue there, and that has to be prepared,” said John Bush, a member of the Council. “I am going to remain very positive and optimistic about all applications that come before the town, and will review them on their merit, just as I would for any developer.
“But, I think people would be remiss to not know the history of what has happened in the past 10 years, and I think because of that, we will be very careful and vigilant about that process.” Now that an agreement is underway between Montgomery County and Fiddler’s Green, the Council has shown concern about some required actions the contract asks of the town.
Marc Verniel, the Blacksburg town manager, said the contract includes contingencies that ask the town to contribute to the costs of certain parts of the redevelopment, such as building roads and transferring density from different pieces of property.
Leslie Hager-Smith, a councilwoman, believes the contingencies are unfair because the town does not own the property.
“It’s like if your neighbor next door in your apartment building decided with her roommate that they were going to have a party,” Hager-Smith said. “And then it’s almost show time, it’s 9:00 on a Friday, and they come to you and say, ‘Oh, did we tell you that you’re going to pay for all the beer?’”
Although there are a few situations hindering the contract’s progression, members of Fiddler’s Green and the town of Blacksburg are willing to put their differences aside to bring the best enhancements to the redevelopment.
The Council will discuss the contract at its next work session in November, and Fiddler’s Green will present its ideas.
“The Council doesn’t really need to be concerned about the contingencies that are in that contract,” Verniel said. “What they need to be concerned about is what is in the town’s comprehensive plan and also what is in the master plan that we did back in the spring.”
Verniel said at the next work session, the Council and Fiddler’s Green will talk through some of the issues that have recently come to light.
“Certainly there are many challenges in the redevelopment of this unique site, and as we begin to work through the ultimate design and mix of uses, we are eager to begin the hard work of bringing to life the vision for the property that is embraced in the recently adopted master plan,” Cowan said in a press release.
Bush emphasized the importance of looking further into the issue.
“Because it is located in our town and adjacent to existing neighborhoods, all of those folks will care very deeply about what happens here,” he said.
Currently, plans and layouts are in the early design stage.
Fiddler’s Green’s purchase would include parcels C, D, E and part of F, at the back end of the property. The parcels bordering Main Street are still currently under negotiation between Montgomery County and Modea, who agreed to buy six acres for $2.45 million.